Monthly Archives: May 2016

Change Is a Beautiful Thing

Butterfly inspiration for today.

Change is a beautiful thing

“And then, God created the butterfly to remind us that change is a beautiful thing!” • Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) butterfly.

Meadow Argus Butterfly of Tonga

The Meadow Argus (Junonia villida) is a butterfly found in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. I reared this one from the caterpillar stage. The butterfly is resting on my arm after being released. A few moments later, it flew up and away.

Meadow Argus

Meadow Argus (Junonia villida) butterfly.

If it looks familiar to residents of North America, there’s good reason. It’s related to the Buckeye (Junonia coenia). One of the host plants for Meadow Argus is Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), a wonderful nectar plant that grows along roadsides and in empty fields on the island of Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga.

Miracles Happen Everyday

Be inspired today by the beauty of an Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) that I reared and released.

Miracles Happen Everyday

Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly being released to the wild. • “Butterflies are reminders that miracles happen everyday.”

Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies for Fun

One of my favorite butterflies to raise is the Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes). It’s an easy species to attract to your garden. You just need to provide their host plants on which the females lay their eggs, including Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Rue or Golden Alexander and they will find them.

Eastern Black Swallowtail and Host Plants

The beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly and five of its host plants, including common herbs: Dill, Fennel and Parsley.

Can’t find these host-plant seeds locally? Order them here:
• Dill (Anethum graveolens)
• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
• Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)
• Curly Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
• Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Female Eastern Black Swallowtail ovipositing

Female Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly ovipositing an egg on Fennel. Look closely at the end of her abdomen. Can you see the cream-colored egg?

Eastern Black Swallowtail Eggs

Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs on Rue and Fennel leaves. Collecting eggs and larvae from your garden or field and getting them home safely is easier with small condiment cups and lids. Click here to order a package.

Once you find the eggs or tiny caterpillars, remove the leaves or pieces of the plant they are on and place them inside a closed container. I like to use the salad containers from fast-food restaurants, but you can use any container with a lid. I use a push pin to punch air holes in the lid. Line the bottom of the container with paper towel or coffee filter. Be sure to provide plenty of the host plant leaves on which you found the eggs and/or caterpillars.

Salad Container Repurposed as a Butterfly Habitat

This easy-to-assemble habitat is nothing more than a fast-food salad container lined with a coffee filter. A few holes punched in the top with a push pin complete the project. These Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars are dining on Curly Parsley.

Caterpillar Condo

I call this my caterpillar condo.

Check on your caterpillars each day to make sure they have enough food to feast on. Once they get bigger you will need to empty the fecal droppings (known as frass) each day and add a new coffee filter or paper towel plus fresh food.

Caterpillar Frass

Caterpillars make a mess! Be sure to clean your cage every day to keep your caterpillars healthy and happy.

All Five Caterpillar Instars

Caterpillars shed their skin five times as they grow. These stages are called instars. In this photo, you can see all five instars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar represented on my finger.

When they are ready to pupate, they will crawl to the top of the lid and make their chrysalis. Many people like to put sticks inside the container for them to use, but that is not necessary. However, it can be fun to see the different colors the chrysalis becomes.

Pupating Caterpillars

The caterpillar will crawl to the top and spin a silk girdle on the container lid before it sheds its skin for the final time.

Chameleon-like Pupae

Chameleon-like, the Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar will pupate with colors that match its surroundings in order to camouflage itself.

It usually takes about two weeks for the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis. You can then experience the joy of holding and releasing your new butterfly.

Eastern Black Swallowtail on finger

A newly-emerged Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly ready for its first flight.

Butterflies and Fruit

Adding a fruit feeder to your butterfly garden can help attract butterflies. Many butterflies do not live on flower nectar alone. Some species prefer, even require, overripe fruit to feed on. Butterflies are particularly fond of sliced, rotting oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, apples and bananas.

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A couple of Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies enjoy sips of sweet fruit juice on a summer afternoon. • Click here or on photo to view a variety of suet baskets.

By placing sliced oranges and watermelon inside a suet bird feeder you can make this simple butterfly feeder.

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A Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis) butterfly sipping juice from a cantaloupe.

This easily-assembled butterfly feeder is a clay saucer with sliced cantaloupe that was positioned on top of a hanging plant basket. It was hung in a Plum Tree (Prunus spp.), which happens to be a host plant for the Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis) seen feeding here.

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A mass of Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis) butterflies marauding a rotting banana still in its peel. • Copyright by Jill Streit-Murphy. Used with permission.

My friend, Jill Streit-Murphy, hangs out a rotten banana in her garden. There are so many butterflies you can’t even see the fruit!

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Half an orange on a deck railing attracted this Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) butterfly.

While in Costa Rica last summer, I set out some fruit in a bird bath and attracted amazingly beautiful butterflies.

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A Red-spotted Purple butterfly shares discarded peaches with some wasps.

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An ant guard is essential equipment when using a butterfly feeder. Click here or on photo to view a variety of ant guards.

Keep ants at bay by hanging your butterfly feeder with an ant guard. Whether you use the kind shown here with a small bit of pesticide tucked inside where it doesn’t come in contact with the butterflies or the type that you keep filled with water and a few drops of cooking oil, ant guards are essential equipment when using butterfly feeders.

Butterflies of the World Poster http://amzn.to/2oeYrTn